Most of us live according to the “natural rule” or “flesh rule”: Do unto others as they have done unto you. This is as instinctive as breathing. There’s a calculating motif in your “goodness” that ensures your niceness to others corresponds to their niceness to you. And for most of us, this is the rule that shapes our interactions with those around us.
You might call this the Iron Rule, because it’s pretty inflexible and harsh.
But Jesus said in Luke 6, “Get rid of that mentality, and love other people like you love yourself, treating them at all times like you’d want to be treated—whether they can do you any good or not.” Very few of us live like this, but we all appreciate the sentiment. We call this the Golden Rule, because it seems so beautiful and valuable: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (v. 31). Who wouldn’t want to live in a world like that?
Now, granted, sometimes people treat the Golden Rule like it’s some kind of karma, a pay-it-forward system. Do this, and the universe will pay you back in time. Humorously, this isn’t too different from the Iron Rule. The only reason I’m doing anything good is to get something good in return. (The big difference here is we’ve changed the target: Now God is on the hook to do good to me.)
We have to remember not just what the Golden Rule is but who said it—Jesus. He didn’t just toss out this proverb in a vacuum; he uttered this statement in the context of a redemptive, sacrificial life. Look at Jesus’ life in its full scope, and you see something remarkable: He loved us long before we loved him—and he did so at the cost of his life. If I could be so bold, I’d call this the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as Jesus has done unto you.
If I could be so bold, I’d call this the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as Jesus has done unto you.
After all, this is the heart behind Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (where he issued that famous Golden Rule). Jesus said, in essence, “Don’t love others in a tit-for-tat fashion. Instead, be like your Father in heaven, who is good to people who will never be kind to him in return. Every day the Father makes his glorious sun shine on people who will never acknowledge him—even his enemies. Every day he showers sinners and saints with life-giving rain.”
Love people that way.
When you do this, your primary goal isn’t to get something from people, or even to convert them. It’s to make you like your Father in heaven, whom you love and want to be like. It’s to respond to the overwhelming love of Jesus, first poured out for you.
So when Jesus says, “Go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41)—a literal command given at a time when Jews were legally required to carry the packs of Roman soldiers for one mile—we don’t think, “One mile is already irritating. Why would I do a second?” When hauling that pack one mile out of obligation, it’s a chore. But choosing to carry that burden two miles, intentionally and voluntarily and in response to Jesus, does something different to your spirit. It produces something no rule ever could—joy.